A Day At The Stream
OK! Now that you’ve got all you need for your fishing trip it’s time to talk about catching fish. If you read “My Mission”, you will know that I started fly fishing without the benefit of any instructions on casting, proper flies, or any of the many pieces of information needed to be a successful fly fisherman; information and instructions that I hope I’ve provided in this website. Despite my enormous shortcomings, I actually caught fish. “Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut” I submitted. The truth was that I was fishing a stream that had been generously stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission just a week or so earlier. Those poor trout had never been outside the confines of a hatchery tank and were equivalent to the proverbial blind squirrel.
You are not going to have to rely on pure luck or uneducated stocked fish. If you have followed my recommendations about what to get for your first outfit and studied my instructions, you should be ready to put your equipment and new found knowledge to the test. Let’s go fishing! Your next classes will held on the stream, in the form of on the job training.
On this beautiful late Spring day we will be fishing for trout at one of Pennsylvania’s premeir trout streams, Spruce Creek. A beautiful limestone stream, Spruce Creek is located at the foot of Tussey Mountain in central Pennsylvania. I’ll set the scene.
You arrive at the stream about 7:30 am and immediately notice several trout feeding off the surface. This makes your choice of what type fly to use an easy one. You take your 4 piece 9 foot 5 weight rod out of it’s tube and put the sections together making sure the the guides line up. Now you insert the seat of your reel containing your 5 weight WF fly line into the rod seat and tighten the holder. After you string the fly line through the guides, you take out a new 9 foot leader with a 5X tippet and connect it to the loop at the end of your fly line. You decide to start with a size 16 Parachute Adams dry fly which you tie with a cinch knot to the end of your leader.
By pulling enough line from your reel to provide about 10 feet of fly line plus leader you can prepare for your first cast. You make a couple of false casts to straighten your line then make your first cast upstream above the rises. Your fly lands gently on the water but you notice that the current between your fly and your floating line is causing your line to move downstream faster than the fly. This causes your fly to be pulled unnaturally. This is what is called drag. When drag happens fish can detect the unnatural drift of your fly and they will not accept it. Drag is the biggest enemy of dry fly fishing. There is a solution to drag and it is called mending your line. When the current causes your line to move faster than your fly simply flick the end of your rod upstream to mend your fly line with a bow upstream. This will allow the fly to catch up. If the fly is moving faster than than the line, flick the line downstream to allow the line to catch up.
You make your mending adjustment and as the fly comes into the range of the rises, a mighty splash occurs where your fly was floating. You lift your rod just right and immediately feel the strong pulse of action at the end of your line. Fish on! After a good fight with several jumps, you bring a nice 17 inch Rainbow Trout to net. What a great way to start a day of fly fishing.
Dry fly fishing is not the only time that you must attend to mending your line. When fishing nymphs it’s just as important. Whether fishing on top or under the water, any time drag causes your flies to move unnaturally your chances of enticing a strike are greatly diminished. Nymphs must have as natural a drift as dry flies so mending is required.
How To Detect A Strike When Fishing Underwater Flies
When fishing flies that drift along a stream for the most part out of sight beneath the surface you need a means to detect a fish’s take. In shallower and reasonably clear water it’s often possible to actually see the fish take the fly. This will not be the case in deeper or colored water. That’s when a strike indicator is called for. They come in a variety of forms. One type is a brightly colored floating ball about 1/4 inch in diameter with a hole through the middle. It is designed to be strung like a bead on your leader and held in place by a piece of a toothpick jammed into the hole. Its disadvantage is having to remove the fly so the ball can be strung or removed. Another type is made of foam with one side colored and the other with stick-um and designed to be folded over the line. I don’t like the stick-um residue on my line when it’s removed or repositioned so I don’t use this kind. The one type that I find most convenient to use comes in a container like a ladies compact. It’s a chartreuse or blaze orange floating putty that can be rolled into a ball and squeezed on the line. It’s easy to reposition or remove and can be placed back in its container and reused. When fishing big and fast moving water such as the Bighorn River (see My Stories page), I use a plastic ball about one inch diameter with a small loop to allow it to be attached to your leader near the top. Here’s a drawing showing how its attached:
Finally, there is one more method that does not involve any of the strike indicators described above. In this case the underwater fly is tied as a dropper from the bend of an attractor dry fly such as a Royal Wulff. The dry fly serves as the strike indicator and also an extra chance to catch a hungry trout. The length of the dropper is anywhere from 18 to 24 inches depending on the depth of water. This is how to tie this arrangement:
Videos Illustrating Use of Strike Indicators
To illustrate how to detect a strike when fly fishing underwater, here are 3 videos showing my good friend, Ted Wong, snagging three trout in a row by following his strike indicator. This strike indicator looks like a little white ball floating at the end of his line. His fly is suspended under this indicator, and when a fish takes the fly, the indicator will either stop, change directions, or actually go under the water. Ted, being an excellant fly fisherman, can detect the slightest change in the floatation of the indicator and sets the hook immediately by raising his rod. To see Ted in action, check out these videos!
While watching this video, follow the white strike indictor you can see in the center of the stream. Around the 13 second mark, you can see the indicator stop its natural drift.
Again, follow the strike indicator after he casts. At the 16 second mark you can see the indicator hesitate and Ted once again sets the hook!
This video highlights the use of the roll cast. Around the 20 second mark, Ted sets the hook and brings in yet another beautiful trout!
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t impart one more piece of advice relating to my above story about fishing at Spruce Creek. There’s something to be said about taking a break from fishing to enjoy the sounds and sights of nature by the stream, but it can be enhanced all the more by siting back and enjoying a good cigar.